Friday, May 24, 2013

What Did the Pope Mean by Saying that Atheists Can Be Saved Too?

Pope Francis recently made a comment that has gotten quite a bit of press lately. I just wanted to explain what he meant and why it isn't biblical. He stated:

"The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can... "The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!".. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

What he is arguing for is inclusivism. Some have thought it is universalism. Some have thought it just refers to unlimited atonement. Although what he is saying is a partial universalism that assumes unlimited atonement, he is not directly arguing for either of these.

Now, we might say that he's only arguing that other people can do good besides Catholics, but it seems clear that his argument is based on the inclusivism of Vatican II. So it is talking about being redeemed and accessing that redemption via good works.

What he is saying is that Christ has provided redemption for all people, and one might follow Christ without exercising faith in the explicit gospel. In other words, one is united to Christ by following Christ in doing good works. Hence, one may do the works of Christ without ever knowing or even acknowledging Christ. Hence, even an atheist can follow Christ through their good works.

The problem with this?

1. We are not united to Christ through good works. Romans, Ephesians, and Galatians make that clear. We are united by faith.

2. Now, a Roman Catholic might include good works and faith as one, and hence, doing good works is not divorced from having faith.

The problem with this is that faith is not described as works in the New Testament. It is described as a trusting response in the explicit, verbal message of the gospel.

3. Hence, faith comes through hearing and hearing through the Word of God. Those who are predestined are called and are justified because they answer that call. Election, therefore, does not work apart from the means of salvation, as though one can be saved by stepping over the call of the gospel and a willful faith decision made to adhere to it. To say otherwise, ironically, is a hyper-calvinist position, where God elects regardless of the means to salvation. Biblical election shows us that God elects us to hear the gospel and respond to it in faith so that we might be united to Christ and be saved by it.

4. I've argued before on this blog that other religions are a manifestation of the religion of Self, and therefore, are rejected by Christ as a path to follow Him.

5. I've also argued before that the "good works" in other religions and worldviews are actually evil and not good at all. Hence, they are not the works of Christ.

6. Paul argues that, If righteousness can come through the law, then Christ died for nothing. But if inclusivism is true, then Paul should have said that righteousness does not come from the law until Christ dies. Instead, he divorces the works of the law and faith given by the Spirit of God in Christ's death. If inclusivism was true, there should be no dichotomy between faith and works to where Paul is arguing that those who follow the law now are lost. They ought to be united to Christ through following the law. This turns the entire message of the New Testament gospel on its head.

Ergo, inclusivism flat out rejects the biblical means to salvation. There is no mystical connection to Christ that we get by doing good works. All who might be saved by Him must be united to Him via faith in His Person and Work. You must believe that He died for our sins and rose again from the dead to create in us new life for the purpose of good works. We need to realize that our believing is the gift of God and not of works, lest any man might boast.

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